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Friday, July 8, 2011

Travertine: What Is It?

Travertine is a type of sedimentary rock. These are rocks that are formed by minerals or organic materials becoming compacted under pressure. The materials are gathered from pieces that break loose by means of erosion, weathering or from rocks that break off other larger rocks.

Travertine is made up of carbonate minerals, particularly aragonite. But the process of travertine formation turns this mineral into crystallized calcite. Typically, minerals springs containing calcium carbonate will deposit these minerals when carbon dioxide in the water bubbles through limestone.

When a drop in pressure or temperature occurs, the water releases the carbon dioxide and the calcium carbonate crystallizes over algae or moss and forms travertine. Once the travertine ages and hardens, it can be mined for use as a building material.

Some of the largest deposits of travertine are found near Rome, Italy in a city that travertine was named after, Tivoli. Early Roman civilizations mined the travertine rock at this location. Other areas where travertine can be found are near the openings of geysers like the one in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA and in natural dams and waterfalls like the one in Plitvice Lakes National Park in the country of Croatia.

Very valuable as a building material, travertine was used to build the Colosseum in Rome and the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Travertine walls are part of the Sears Tower in Chicago and the Sacre-Coeur in Paris. Pure travertine is white in appearance, but impurities may change its color to brown or yellow.

However, travertine stone is available as flooring tiles in a variety of earthy colors from grey to golden honey to silvery green to coral red. The face of travertine stone has what appears to be pitted holes caused naturally during its formation. Some people like that appearance and others do not.

For this reason, travertine rock can be purchased either filled or unfilled. If purchased filled, the holes are filled in with grout, epoxy or dust resin. Uniqueness is also a part of travertine’s charm, because no two stones are alike, each possessing notable differences in tones and streaks of color.

It will be easier to care for travertine stone if the holes are filled in, because dirt can collect in the holes. Filling in the holes will also add to its strength and durability. Certain acidic household cleaners containing lemon, vinegar or alcohol will damage the surface and should not be used.

Travertine may have a polished finish that makes its appearance warm and beautiful. If your travertine is polished, you won’t need to seal it, otherwise sealing will protect it from etching. Cleaning involves hot water and a specially formulated stone cleaner. Wipe up spills with a soft cloth or sponge and be sure to use coasters if the situation calls for it.

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